Farmer Focus Arable: David Shepherdson on spring cropping

David Shepherdson and his father rent about 182ha (450 acres) of arable land, mainly thin limestone, on the Dawnay Estates near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, They grow wheat, barley and oilseed rape. He also undertakes contract work including all spraying on another 100ha (250-acre) farm.

As the shorter days are now upon us, we’ve slipped into our winter work hours, which means that I am first to arrive home in the evenings.

Much as I appreciate the earlier finish, the downside is I have to look after our two young children and make an effort to get tea on the table. Roll on spring!

The main activity over the past month for me has been hedgecutting, which is much easier at this time of year when the hedges have no greenery to cut through. I notice there are far more birds nesting in roadside hedges, which get cut more often and have a thicker and tighter canopy.

Some inner-field hedges that are cut less frequently are tall and gappy, unsuitable for small birds to nest in but ideal as a perching position for birds of prey.

Father has finally got all the corn dried; a seemingly endless task through our antiquated continuous-flow dryer. None of the grain was particularly wet, but as it is not moving off the farm in a hurry it needed a blow to get it under the magic 15%.

Having just returned from a holiday in north-east Scotland, our next decision regards spring cropping. Driving the length of the country it seems everywhere is well sown-up this back end, with very few stubble fields left for spring cropping.

Just 30 acres of our land is destined for spring barley, the rest will be either spring beans or linseed. We have had beans before with mixed results – our finest blunder being to ruin a very good sample of them by splitting them with too much heat in the dryer.

Linseed is a crop we have never tried, so I would welcome readers’ comments on their experiences of growing it.

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